Iran executes ‘Sultan of Bitumen’

Iran executes ‘Sultan of Bitumen’

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Screen grab from Irna of Hamidreza Baqeri Darmani in court Image copyright Iran State TV
Image caption The trial of Hamidreza Baqeri Darmani was broadcast on state TV

A prominent Iranian businessman, known as the “Sultan of Bitumen”, has been executed for bribery and corruption.

Hamidreza Baqeri Darmani was found guilty of forging documents to secure state-backed loans.

He then used front companies to procure more than 300,000 tonnes of bitumen – a substance used in making asphalt – one of Iran’s most profitable industries.

Darmani, 49, is the third businessman to be executed since an anti-corruption drive was launched earlier this year.

Last month, Iran executed a currency trader known as the “Sultan of Coins” for amassing some two tonnes of gold currency.

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According to the judiciary’s Mizan news agency, Darmani procured bitumen worth more than $100m (£79m) through “fraud, forgery and bribery”. He was arrested in August 2014.

News of Darmani’s execution was given dramatic coverage on Iranian state television with an action-movie-style soundtrack.

Correspondents say authorities are keen to show how serious they are about punishing those accused of exploiting the country’s volatile economy.

In August, new “revolutionary” courts were set up to fast-track corruption cases and dozens of businessmen and traders have been jailed.

It comes amid widespread public anger over a rising cost of living and perceived corruption.

Iran’s economy is struggling, partly due to a US decision to re-impose tough sanctions on the country.

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